US “deliberately delaying” training for Ukrainian F-16 pilots - MP

    WORLD  18 June 2024 - 17:43

    The United States is making “excuses” over its failure to train sufficient numbers of Ukrainian F-16 fighter jet pilots, the head of Ukraine’s special parliamentary commission on arms and munitions has claimed.

    The hold-up means that Ukraine will probably have only 20 pilots who have been fully trained to fly F-16s by the end of the year, Oleksandra Ustinova said. “So far we’re going to have fewer trained pilots than fighter jets,” she added, The Times reports.

    Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have pledged to transfer more than 60 F-16s to Ukraine. The first jets are expected to arrive later this year, but it is unclear when they will begin combat missions.

    However, Ustinova said that so far only eight Ukrainian pilots were being trained in Tucson, Arizona, while another twelve were being put through their paces at an air base in Denmark. A third training programme in Romania has yet to begin. Ustinova said that Kyiv had asked Washington to provide at least another ten places on the training programs, but its request was rebuffed.

    Kyiv has long sought F-16s. Washington initially refused to allow the jets to be sent to Ukraine for fear that doing so could draw Nato into direct conflict with Russia. President Biden eventually granted permission for their deployment in August after appeals from Kyiv. Ukraine has said some of the jets will be kept at bases in Nato countries to ensure that they are not targeted by Russia.

    Washington has told Kyiv that other countries are ahead of Ukrainian pilots in the line for training spots and that it cannot break its commitments to them, Politico reported last week. A US defence department official also told the news website that Ukrainian pilots were struggling with English language skills, as well as the flying programme. “The training pipeline on F-16s is pretty meagre,” the unnamed official said. Ustinova described such claims as “ridiculous”.

    “These are not arguments, they are excuses, and they keep coming up with them, time and time again,” she said. The delay in training pilots was most likely motivated by fears in Washington that the large-scale presence of American F-16s in action in Ukraine could be viewed by Moscow as the integration of the country into Nato. “This is totally political,” she said.

    Caliber.Az

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